Quaker House, the oldest surviving building in Dartmouth, is located at 57 Ochterloney Street, a five minute walk from the Alderney Ferry Terminal.
Built in 1786 and first occupied by William Ray, a cooper and whaler, and his family, from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, Quaker House is now owned by Halifax Regional Municipality and serves as one of two historic properties operated by the Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society.
Also known as the Quaker Whaler Museum, Quaker House tells stories of the Nantucket whaling families belonging to the Society of Friends (known as Quakers) who came to Dartmouth after the end of the 1775-1783 American Revolution to continue to do business under the British flag.
Quaker-owned vessels, based out of Dartmouth Cove, would sail on lengthy voyages to far-off whaling grounds around the world.
From 1849 to 1971, Quaker House was owned by the Jackson family.
According to the Dartmouth Heritage Inventory of the former Department of Culture Recreation and Fitness, George W. Jackson owned Quaker House from 1849 to 1899, William J. Jackson owned Quaker House from 1899 to 1920, Clarence Jackson owned Quaker House from 1920 to 1962 and, finally, Kenneth Jackson owned Quaker House from 1962 until 1971 when it was bought by the former City of Dartmouth in an effort, encouraged early on by the Dartmouth Club, Canadian Federation of University Women, to preserve Dartmouth's early built heritage.
A plaque, likely made by WWII veteran and proud Dartmouthian, Peter Douglass (interestingly, the upstairs of Quaker House features a cast iron Douglass and Co, flue cover made at the early Dartmouth foundry of Mr. Douglass' family) outside of the front entrance of Quaker House, reads:
THE JACKSON HOUSE ASSOCIATED WITH THE PERIOD OF THE NANTUCKET WHALERS 1785-1793 THIS HOUSE IS ONE OF DARTMOUTH'S OLDEST LANDMARKS.
DARTMOUTH MUSEUM SOCIETY 1969.
Quaker House is both a provincial and Halifax Regional Municipality registered heritage property.
Each year, through government programs such as Young Canada Works, the Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society hires several talented summer interpreters to work at Quaker House, such as current employees Beth Hawco, from Bedford, Nova Scotia, graduate of University of King's College, with a degree in early modern history, and Elizabeth March, from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, second year European history student attending Mount Allison University.
Beth and Elizabeth are particularly fond of the curious artifacts found within the walls of Quaker House during renovations, namely several old shoes (traditionally concealed during construction to ward off the Devil) now on display and a Quaker marriage certificate from 1717 (predating by sixty-nine years the 1786 construction of today's 57 Ochterloney Street).
Until joining the team at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, Elizabeth, like many fellow Dartmouthians, had never visited Quaker House, taking it for granted.
Those who do eventually venture through the doorway, from the bustling downtown streetscape, to explore the old rooms, exhibits and garden of Quaker House, thoroughly enjoy the experience, especially the well-presented guided tour.
Conveniently, several popular local food and drink destinations, such as Humble Pie, Hungry Hut, Yeah Yeahs Pizza, Battery Park, King Street (formerly Fran's) Fish and Chips, Machum's Café (formerly Ma Belle's), the Somme Branch Royal Canadian Legion canteen, Schnitzel Bistro Restaurant and Two if by Sea, are located on Ochterloney Street or around the corner on King Street.
Until closing for the season at the very end of August, Quaker House is open weekly from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm (closed for staff lunch from 1 to 2pm).
So far this summer, visitors to Quaker House, who have signed the guestbook, have been from communities such as San Jose (California), Portland (Maine), Clinton (New Jersey), Lynchburg (Virginia), Hillsboro (Illinois), Watson (Saskatchewan), Liverpool (England), Vienna (Austria), North Berwick (Scotland) and Halifax (Nova Scotia).
Quaker House is a beautiful, quirky (the historic house has been added on to over the centuries and is full of surprises) and culturally significant highlight of historic downtown Dartmouth.
Visit Quaker House, whether you are from Dartmouth, Halifax or somewhere slightly further away, this August before it closes for the season. Admission is five dollars.
David Jones is an archaeologist and historian from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Thursdays at Noon, David has a weekly thirty minute history segment on The Rick Howe Show, NEWS 95.7.
Quaker House would benefit greatly from a backyard picnic table (hint hint). The citizens of, and visitors to, HRM and the Province of Nova Scotia would benefit greatly from a museum of Halifax-Dartmouth history and archaeology (hint hint). Currently, the majority of the thousands of important artifacts of the former City of Dartmouth collection are out of public view in a Burnside warehouse.
David Jones sits on the Board of Directors of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum.